Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Green River... Wider than a Mile...

I'm off to Green River, Wyoming, for my grandfather's funeral.

It's been 20 years since I've seen some of my cousins and I'll be meeting some of their spouses and children for the first time. The last time we were all together was at my grandmother's funeral. She preceded my grandfather in death by 20 years and 2 months. I was almost 18 then; I'm almost 38 now. (I actually turn 38 on Sunday...) No doubt I and my siblings and our cousins have matured since then. (I certainly know my weight has matured since then, but I'm not always certain about the rest of me.)


A lot happens in 20 years, and yet, it's not a lot of time when you look at the entire scheme of life and living.

In looking back on Grandpa's life, I think there are three lessons I take away: 1) kindness matters, 2) people--especially family--are top-priority, and 3) be yourself without apology.


If you ever chance to travel I-80, you'll pass above the town of Green River. If you're going eastbound, as you approach Castle Rock and the tunnel under the rock, look down to your right for the white house across the street from the school. That's where my grandparents spent 60 years of their lives.

It's where my mother grew up. It's where my siblings and I have many happy memories. It's where the skies are a crisp, snappy, almost painful blue. Where the wind blows with a determination that seems to carry on it the spirits of so many pioneers and trailblazers who have crossed these rugged and often unforgiving plains.

My sister said, "If I could inherit anything from Grandma and Grandpa, it would be the sound of the screen door on the front porch and the wind through the open kitchen."


The other day, my friend Holly wrote about the desert.

There is a strength and beauty to the desert that is hard to describe. And while I love the ocean and find it to have a healing quality, there is something about the desert that works its way into your skin, your soul, your heart.

The desert is contradiction.

It is immovable, immortal, eternal. Conversely, it is in constant flux, carved by eons of elements and powers only humanity can envy. It is explosive, yet muted. Its landscape is, like all else in nature, never the same twice. One day it is dusty and unforgiving, the next it is soft and embracing.


It is the desert that shares a course in my blood. It is the part of me that reminds me I am more than just a transitory wave, lapping on the edges of the earth. It reminds me that there is a permanence and steadfastness. It reminds me that over time I am being carved into one of God's magnificent masterpieces--sometimes dusty and gritty, sometimes soft and embracing.


I shall miss my grandparents.

And I shall miss the desert, for there abides the character of my soul.


Illustration copyright: Green River by Thomas Moran (Courtesy of Western Wyoming Community College.)


ticklethepear said...

Beautiful. Have a good trip and happy b'day in advance.

Kaidydid said...

I love the last sentence of this post.

I cannot think of a truer statement about the desert. If you are one of those fortunate enough to grow up in the desert you know what it means to be a survivor. Grandma definitely knew what it meant, and she lived it with grace and style. Grandpa did it with a wild sense of humor. I know that we got the very best of those traits from both of them.

I guess one very important truth about the desert, the Wyoming desert in particular, is this:

You can either suck it up and survive or you are going to end up as bleached bones with wind whistling through your rib cage out on the very open plains. Not only that, but someone back East is going to be saying, "why don't they write no more?"

I'm going to miss Grandma and Grandpa too so you're not alone in that feeling, but just remember:

And I shall miss the desert, for there abides the character of my soul.

Grandma and Grandpa are part of our souls.

Thanks for the memories...

janeannechovy said...

I second everything Sylvia said. Big smooches.

beano said...

I will remember the summer spent at Grandma's and Grandpa Bang's during which I was supposed to be Dad's go-fer while he fixed the deck, re-worked the front porch, etc; this was all in preperation for an anniversary (I do not recall which one...) I actually spent more time eating almond joys and chewing bubble yum in front of the tv. My other past-time that summer was traipsing through the hills preceding up to Castle Rock. I spied many a ground squirrel and eventually brought home a pair of lizards, mom liked them.

I also have two items of great value from my time with Grandma and Grandpa bang and that will be the plate and (for lack of a better word) medallion upon which grandma painted my favorite bird, the red brested Robin.

I will remember the day Grandpa brought lunch for myself, Dad, and him that summer. One McDonald's Big Mac, for a kid my age (I think I was 9 or 10, mom?) it was a big meal and I tried to figure how I was going to fit my mouth over the whole thing... In truth I cannot remember if I ate it all.

I will remember Grandpa's swing shift calendar on the fridge; the way he could scurry about.

I miss grandma's grace and poise and I will miss grandpa's "Who ya mad at mugwamp!" and "Ya want'a Poop-si?"

Adriana Velez said...

Wow, what a breathtaking post. Hope the trip is rejuvinates your spirit!

Adriana Velez said...

Wow, what a breathtaking post. Hope the trip is rejuvinates your spirit!

Swizzies said...

Happy Birthday, J. And I hope you enjoy your trip, and continue to have good memories of your family and good experiences with them presently. And keep remembering your roots as well.


Miss Understood said...

That was beautifully written.

I hope you enjoy seeing your family again after such a long time. And Happy Birthday too. x

Holly said...

Hi Janet--sorry to hear about your grandfather, but I hope the funeral is consoling and comforting, and fun in the way that funerals can be, when you know the person you're saying goodbye to has lived a good life and it's so great to see your cousins for the first time in a million years.

And happy birthday, too.

Mary Ellen said...

A beautifully fitting tribute, J. And I'd say you've nailed those three life lessons from your grandparents. Thanks for sharing them with us.

I hope this is a weekend of rejoicing.

Casey Kochmer said...

peace in your memories and moments of reflection of your grandparents.

jim wiggins said...

The Green River runs through my wishes though I have never been there and had never viewed its land until this site appeared on my screen.

Someday, perhaps, I shall visit.

With such inspiration of life and love I will hold your grandfather's parting and living --if only vaguely.
and if only briefly.